A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
As predicted in these pages, the Baby Boomers have gotten hold of the Bucket List (you can read about it here) and buggered it up beyond all recognition. The collective bucket is now full and overflowing so ludicrously that 19-year-olds are making Bucket Lists for autumn as if the 2012 Mayan Calendar were coming back for a second crack at us. There are even websites which will make your Bucket List for you, if you can’t think up any good stuff yourself. Some Johnny-Come-Latelys have even taken to writing anti-Bucket Lists, just to set themselves apart from the horde/(Herd?) “I’m never going to eat lima beans” kinda diminishes the spiritual value of confronting mortality, head-on. So, since the Boomers have once again marketed the wonder and whimsy out of another part of the human experience, it’s time to set up some rules. Bucket all you want, but there is a limit to what the rest of us can endure.
I’m going to write a novel. The peak of conceit in our ego driven world. It’s amazing how many people who can’t compose a decent email believe they have a novel inside them, struggling to get out. Perhaps they do, but, if you answer most of your text messages with “K,” “lol” or “haha,” you might want to rethink this one. The average novel has 50 to 60 thousand words in it. At a more-talented-than-Shakespeare rate of 500 words a day, that’s around four months of steady 9 to 5 and beyond work. Assuming, or course, that every word you write is a gem, every comma, colon and question mark is in the right place and SpellCheck can distinguish between “your,” “you’re” and “yore.” Typing is easy, but writing is hard — even without rereads, rewrites or all the other editing bits which can — and frequently do — take years. Honestly, with the Grim Reaper looking over your shoulder, do you really want to spend that much time staring at a computer screen? Probably not. You’d be far better off to stick to poetry which is quick, easy, still has the requisite dose of Vitamin I, and can be confined to 20 line bursts of creativity on evenings and weekends.
I will watch a whale, see a grizzly, hug a panda, walk with a penguin, dance, skip, jump and crawl with any number of other assorted exotic species. Here’s the deal. Leave wild animals alone. Their mortality is just as precious as yours, and every time you and your guided tour touristas go stumbling through their environment, you’re moving them one hiking boot closer to extinction. If you must brag, go to Mexico or some other such place where they’ve captured animals specifically for your enjoyment. Play with them there –their lives are already miserable. Besides, I think most people are fed up with the irony of somebody spouting off about swimming with the dolphins while they’re sucking down another order of tuna maki at the sushi bar.
I’m going to get a meaningful tattoo. What the hell does that even mean? How is any tattoo significantly different from the millions of others adorning everybody west of the Russian Mafia? Back in the day, tattoos were neat and unique, but there’s been a lot of ink spilled on the middle class since then. Freudian symbolism aside, these days, tattoos have more to do with disposable income than creativity. After all, with a thousand bucks in your pocket, you can get as creative as the market will bear — including making sure there are no spelling mistakes. Perhaps that’s what “meaningful” really means.
I’m going to skydive, bungee jump, hang glide or engage in some other “extreme” nonsense. Why is it that when people finally realize they are eventually going to die, the first thing they do is try to hasten the inevitable by challenging gravity to a duel? I trust technology as much as the next guy. However, I’m certainly not going to jump off a bridge when the only thing between me and the Gates of Valhalla is an elastic band, secured to my leg by a second year Rec. student who may — or may not — be high on peyote. The modern fetish for jumping (literally) out of one’s comfort zone is a testament to just how cushy life is for some people in the 21st century. I suppose that when your biggest challenge to life and liberty is who took your parking spot, a controlled explosion of adrenaline is something of an adventure. (After all, you’re not really going to get hurt when the guy on top of you has the ripcord.) However, I wonder just how mundane our lives have become when we have to manufacture danger to fulfill them.
I’m going to tell the truth about X. Don’t! Now, or any time between now and the dirt nap, is not the time to confess an abortion, an adoption, an affair or even a fantasy — especially if it involves something sticky or your daughter’s swimming coach, Morgan. In the words of Mohandas Gandhi, “Shut up and move on.” (He didn’t actually say that but…) There are certain things that should safely accompany you to the grave, and if that’s too big a burden on your soul, suck it up, you big baby. It’s not always about you.
As I’ve said many times, I approve of Bucket Lists. I’ve had several. However, now that they’ve become a retirement requirement, we’re rapidly reaching the tiresome top end of one-upmanship. A sunrise isn’t good enough, unless it’s seen from the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Spain is not complete without playing dodgeball with the bulls of Pamplona. And no mountain is worth climbing if it doesn’t have a recognizable name.
If your one desire in life is to eat Fugu soaked in Absinthe served by Albanian virgins off silver trays, by all means do it. But for God’s sake, shut up about it because I’ve only have a finite number of days left to enjoy my morning coffee. (It’s Maxwell House, and I like it.)